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Girl Drinking From a Shell

Girl Drinking From a Shell

Artist: Edward Francis McCartan (American, 1879 - 1947)

Date: c. 1915
Medium: bronze
Other: 188 lb., 61 in. (85.3 kg, 154.9 cm)
Credit Line:Gift, Ferdinand Thun and Henry Janssen
Object number: 1927.1775.1

This is one of two known life-size castings of McCartan’s “Drinking Girl.” The other example is located at the Hermitage Museum and Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia. McCartan’s superb command of classical contrapposto, refined line, and his use of ornamental details were ideally suited to the contemporary taste for garden sculpture in the first decades of the twentieth century, and he made a specialty of this genre, focusing on woodland or mythological themes.  Among other fountain designs are a Diana and Boy and Panther Cub, both at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Born in Albany, McCartan studied with Herbert Adams (1858 – 1945) for six months at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Additionally, he took courses at the Art Students League with George Grey Barnard, Hermon Atkins MacNeil, George de Forest Brush, and Kenyon Cox. In 1914, he began as an instructor at the School of Beaux-Arts Architects in New York, where he encouraged the study of architectural ornament. He continued teaching at the Art Students League, and was named academician at the National Academy of Design in 1925.

Great American author, John Updike, famously describes this sculpture in The Centaur from 1962:

In the center of the large oval room at the head of the stairs a naked green lady, life size, stood at the center of a circular black-lipped pool. She was a fountain. She held to her lips a scallop shell of bronze and her fine face was pursed to drink, but the mechanics of the fountain dictated that water should spill forever from the edge of the shell away from her lips.

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